From the Trenches: 5 Things You Can Learn From Professional Spammers

Spammers today, like effective bank robbers, always stay one step ahead of the curve, introducing new technology and honing copy to entice people to buy. They do research on colors that drive attention, subject lines, copy length and even personalization. So why doesn’t anyone study spam emails to see what new best practices our standard market should employ? I decided to take a look at a sample of 1,422 spam emails recently sent to see what I could learn. This is what I found:

1. Spammers don’t put personalization into subject lines anymore.

2. Ninety percent of the spam emails had their call to action or link within the first half-inch of the email — and in plain text in most cases.

3. Fifty percent of the messages contained one large image.

4. The majority of the subject lines contained more than 10 words and offered actionable words like “get,” “save,” “% off,” etc.

5. None of the spam emails included links to social networks or send-to-a-friend features.

At the end of this review, I was initially disappointed. There wasn’t anything fun, new or significant to learn from. And then a lightbulb went off. I realized the biggest change in spam emails today comes from how spammers are monetizing their businesses. The value for spammers isn’t about driving sales as much as it’s about building responsive databases.

And here’s the big learning that we should all pay attention to: The information collected by spammers tells them who we are, where we live, when we respond, and which devices and operating systems we leverage. The spammers of today aren’t just building email databases, they’re building the foundation of mobile accessibility that will drive significant streams of revenue in the short and long term.

While many companies today continue to look at email as a single communication channel and revenue driver, it’s really much more. Your email program holds the key to insights about your database response patterns that could, in fact, help drive future corporate strategies. As we continue to move into a mobilized market, and evolve our messaging to meet the innovations technology continues to introduce, we must be smart about how we use every piece of data to its fullest potential.

Marketers are on the verge of a significant transition in the world of email. Will you be ready to capitalize on the shift in usage patterns? The answers are already with you — inside the spam emails you receive, and hidden within your own database. Unlock your potential today.

Jeanniey Mullen is chief marketing officer for New York-based digital publisher Zinio and its sister company, VIVmag, a digital luxury lifestyle magazine for women. She’s also the executive director of the Email Experience Council, an email marketing trade organization. Reach Jeanniey at